Does it ever seem to you like you've heard all the news before about the state budget quagmire? Much of the talk surrounding the present situation focuses on "the future." So it seems like a good time to go into the News Cut Wayback Machine. Setting: Fourth Monday in January 2003.
Here's the MPR newscast scripts from that date:
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House DFLers are calling a Republican budget balancing plan too harsh to the state's most vulnerable. The House is scheduled to begin debate today
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Governor Pawlenty continued his tour of greater Minnesota today to promote tax-free zones. Pawlenty and members of the Minnesota House have offered the plan as a way to stimulate business and job creation. Pawlenty told an audience in Luverne that tax-free zones are the "mother of all economic development incentives." He says a particular area or collaboration of counties would be encouraged to come together and develop regional or theme-based tax-free zones.
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Senate Republicans are proposing a two-year pay freeze for all public sector employees in Minnesota to help reduce the state deficit. They say keeping salaries constant could produce one billion dollars or more in savings. The plan would affect state workers as well as employees in cities, counties, school districts and universities. State allowances to all government entities would be reduced to account for the lack of pay raises. By the Senate GOP's estimate, Minnesota has 350-thousand public sector employees. Senate Minority Leader Dick Day of Owatonna says a freeze is a more compassionate way to cut costs than layoffs. But he won't guarantee that everyone would keep their job.
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Governor Pawlenty says he'd prefer to continue full subsidies for Minnesota's ethanol industry -- but the state's budget crisis will force tough choices. The governor spoke in Luverne yesterday. His short-term deficit reduction plan includes a proposal to eliminate almost 27 (m) million dollars in subsidies to ethanol plants. But Pawlenty says most ethanol facilities will continue to be profitable even without the subsidies. On a tour to support his plan for out-state tax-free zones, Pawlenty said he's open to the legislature reinstating some of the ethanol subsidy reductions in his budget proposal -- as long as lawmakers find the money to solve the budget deficit somewhere else.
It really is uncanny. Same stuff different year. Do you think we could take the wayback machine to 1959 and find the same things?
The Wayback Machine is waiting for someone to show up with some jumper cables at the moment. It's stuck in 2003 until then.
Ever since 2003, it seems like the determining factor in these budget sessions is whether the Guv and the DFL legislative leaders are willing to go to a shutdown over their priorities.
In 2003, Hottinger wasn't, Pawlenty was, and Pawlenty got everything he wanted. Hottinger specifically cited the desire to avoid a shutdown as his reason for caving.
In 2005, Pawlenty and the DFL Senate caucus both were willing to go to a shutdown, the shutdown occurred, and on balance, the DFL got more of what it wanted in the budget.
In 2007, Kelliher and Pogemiller took the shutdown option off the table on the first day of the legislature. Pawlenty once again ended up with virtually everything he wanted in the budget.
I haven't listened to Kelliher's Midmorning interview yet, but I'd be interested to know if she was asked about this. "Madam Speaker, are you taking a government shutdown off the table as a negotiating tool?" If history is any guide, how she answers will tell us a lot about what the final budget is going to look like.
Nobody likes shutdowns for obvious reasons, but if the DFL doesn't have the stomach for it, or ranks the possibility of a shutdown as worse than not seeing their priorities enacted, they're gonna get rolled. That's been the story of the Pawlenty administration.
Might be a good time to point out that year after year of across the board budget cuts rewards programs and departments with poorly managed budgets.
If a department efficiently uses its available budget and then gets hit with 5% cuts for six years, its cumulative cut is 26.5% from the 2003 level. The same 6 years at 5% cut for a department that wastes 3% of its budget is a cut of only 11.4% from the 2003 level. Some of the government jobs I have worked waste much more than 3%, IMO. Therefore, budget cuts reward waste and punish responsible management (Kind of sounds like a wall street bailout...).
The solution to a budget problem like MN has had and currently has is not to make budget cuts, but PROGRAM cuts. Figure out what the purpose of government is, cut the programs that do not fit into the mission, and then allocate funds to the mission critical functions (and do triage on these if the funds are still short). Also, it must be recognized that government does have a critical role in our economy (infrastructure and regulatory, for example) and that it costs money to perform these functions. That cost is funded by taxes. Removing tax increases from consideration during a budget crunch, or proposing tax cuts (?!), is irresponsible, just like rewarding mismanagement through across the board cuts.
@News Cut Wayback Machine - How about 2002 when the GOP and DFL sang the same tune? Those quotes would be funny to see.
Seems like somebody isn't doing a very good job of planning for the long term. Perhaps more amazing is that we reward such incompetence with reelection.